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Teaching and reading in a YA movie world

Editor’s note: Christina wrote this last August before The Giver movie opened but we couldn’t post it then. We offer it now at the start of this summer’s book-to-movie season.

giverThe first time I read The Giver, I was astounded. I got to the last page, sat for a moment in wonder, and then flipped back to page 1 to begin again, in the hopes I could hold that moment for just a little longer. The images that the book conjured for me were permanent, even today, many years and reads later.

I’ve had three separate conversations recently about whether I’ll see the movie, and in each, I’ve also been asked how I feel about all of the YA books being made into movies nowadays. Some askers imply that the spate of movies isn’t so great because it will make the kids “just see the movies” instead of actually reading the books. But I haven’t been thinking that at all.

As a teacher, I see my undergrads obsessing about the movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, carefully dissecting every small difference between page and screen as they re-watch and reread over and over. The Giver movie posterMotivation to read the book is definitely not their problem. And I see my summer school students having a conversation about who we would cast in a movie version of He Said, She Said and what would be changed by losing the two different points of view we get in the book. It strikes me that these are rich and deep ways of thinking about story, and I think those moments are full of possibility for teaching about deep comprehension and craft.

The MA Standards ask that students be able to consider material presented through a variety of different media, and I think many movie/book pairings afford interesting opportunities to do this type of analytic work. We do this with adult titles, so I think it makes sense to work with YA books in this way as well.

I am not in a position these days to teach The Giver, but if I had my own classroom, I would likely consider using scenes from the movie to help push students to think critically about the craft of presenting a story. Ultimately, I’m not sure if I’ll see The Giver. But, if I do see it, I’m not so worried about seeing someone else’s vision. My Giver is indelible in my memory. It grows with me and reveals new things at times, but it could never be replaced.

Christina Dobbs About Christina Dobbs

Christina Dobbs is an assistant professor of English Education at Boston University. She is a former high school teacher, literacy coach, and reading specialist, and she studied adolescent literacy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.



  1. You have the right attitude. Rather than taking an antagonistic stance or insisting that the book version is the only one that counts, teachers should use scenes from a movie adaptation as teaching tools.

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